In his report, Steve Drew reflected that in his first two years as chairman he has seen a gradual movement from providing emergency help to individuals and families in immediate need, towards helping people over a longer period. Clients return on several occasions, quite often referred from Citizen’s Advice or the Money and Debt Advice Service. It would seem that with the introduction of Universal Credit and delays or sometimes reductions in benefits, there has been a need to give help in the longer term rather than just temporary respite.
He indicated that one of the major aims of the Corsham Food Bank is to ensure that children don’t go hungry during school holidays, so families are provided with some much needed extra food for the 13 weeks that they won’t get a meal at school. Last July 189 bags of food were packed, at Christmas the number was 249 bags and just before Easter a further 150 bags were delivered to local families. In December, 50 children from St Patrick’s Primary School came to help us to pack some special food parcels. The older children in year 5 were paired up with younger ones from the Reception class and together they worked hard and gained an insight into how a food bank works. Steve visited Neston Rainbows and Brownies in January so that they could help to sort and mark up some of the food that had been donated at their carol services.
Financially, the food bank is in a strong position thanks to a generous contribution from the Co-op community fund, plus a great many other individual cash donations and the massive amounts of food donated through the churches or given at the collection point in Sainsburys. Because of all this financial and practical support, 800 individuals were helped with food parcels last year, three extra items were added to the list of food available through the voucher system at the Co-op and the overall amount to be spent on fresh fruit or vegetables at Mays Greengrocers was also increased.
This year a dedicated website was developed for us by Steve Nester, the husband of one of our volunteers and Hazel Hammett dragged us into the 21st century by ordering the extra food we needed for the Christmas and Easter hampers online and having it delivered to the church.
He thanked Steve Lumb for his hard work on our behalf as our treasurer and all the volunteers, trustees and committee members who have helped to tackle the problem of food poverty in Corsham since the food bank was set up. He finished with a quotation from John Wesley which summed up the ethos of the Corsham Churches food bank, "Do all the good you can by all the means you can. In all the ways you can, in all the places you can. At all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can."
Before Christmas our volunteers worked feverishly every Tuesday and Saturday morning, date-checking the food, making sure the shelves were loaded and that there were no shortages of the basics, in readiness for packing the special food parcels at the beginning of December. We had some extra funds to buy treats, knowing that this would make a big difference, especially to children, at Christmas. The hard work really began when the food had to be packed into parcels. On Saturday 9 th December 245 bags of food were packed by 13 tireless and dedicated volunteers, working to get everything done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Then on Monday 11 th December a group of young people from Corsham School helped to load everything onto the van ready for delivery.
Since Christmas, now that winter has arrived, requests for short-term help from various agencies have increased significantly. Fortunately we are able to keep our cupboards very well-stocked, thanks to our regular donations of food from the collection boxes in Sainsburys, the Co-op and McColls and all the local churches. We will have to make sure we have a full range of balanced food to offer when we make our next distribution of food. This will be just before the school holidays at Easter time, when we know that some families will find it harder to provide meals for their children. Last year 37 families were referred to us for extra help at Easter and we are expecting that number to increase again this year. We use the points accumulated on our special Nectar Card to buy treats at Christmas and Easter. All points go on a central card to buy food and any food bank supporter can have one. (Ring the food bank mobile if interested)
Corsham Churches Foodbank has been included once again in the next round of the Co-op’s Community Fund. This is a system whereby every shopper who has a Co-op membership card will get back 5% of the purchase price on any Co-op branded item that they can then spend, and a further 1% will be donated to local good causes. If you’re a Co-op member, please nominate us as your local charity to support for the next year (up to November 2018). It means a lot to us and to the people we help. “Local people helping local people”. Thanks.
On 21st November we had a visit from around 50 children from Reception Class and Year 5, all pupils at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Corsham. The school has a practice of “buddying up” the Reception Class with pupils in Year 5 – and it seems to work very well for all the children, giving the Year 5s a sense of responsibility and the Reception Class a feeling of security and friendship in their first year at school. They came to see how the Foodbank works at first hand, with first a short explanation of what we do and why, and then a chance for half of them to pack some bags of food for us, while the other half coloured in some compliment slips that will be going out with bags of food we will be issuing at Christmas. Then the groups swapped round, with everyone getting a biscuit at the end. We all thoroughly enjoyed the visit – the children were very well behaved, a credit to their teachers and the school. We hope another group will come again next year.
A big thank you to all the Churches and local schools who were so generous at Harvest. Our cupboards are now well stocked for the nominations we will be getting to help local families over the Christmas period. Although there will still be some items we will need to buy, we can concentrate on getting the treats that will make such a difference at this time of year, especially to children. Thanks again to you all.
One of our volunteers, Angela, recently saw a press cutting in which a Cardiff Foodbank had received a donation which included a tin of Heinz Kidney Soup with no use by date, but which must have been at least 46 years old as Heinz stopped producing it in 1971! A big thank you to Steve Nester, the husband of one of our volunteers, Helen, who has put our website together. A fantastic job!
We’re very grateful for the support we get from local churches and all have representatives on our committee. In addition we have a very willing team of volunteers drawn from all sections of the community. Year by year, since the food bank was set up, the number of local people we support has increased. 35 families were identified to receive extra food this summer during the school holidays when school meals were not available. At Christmas, families and individuals referred to us by various local organisations will receive a standard food box and some extra Christmas items – last year the total was 42 (189 bags of food) and we expect to have more referrals this year.
At our recent committee meeting we discussed how we could reach out more effectively to older people, reluctant (for a variety of reasons) to approach a food bank. We reviewed the list of food items we provide and considered whether we should extend the range to include toiletries. We also decided to increase the value of the green grocer vouchers we offer for fresh produce. We talked about creating our own website, improving our storage systems and updating our mobile phone - and the meeting still finished on time!